Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Nellie Gertrude Bean Bates, 1857-1928

By Victoria Pham, Student, University of California, San Diego

Nellie Gertrude Bean, was born on March 25, 1857, in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of George Lafayette Bean from Moultonboro, New Hampshire, and Elizabeth Locke from Arlington, Massachusetts. She married Arthur Lee Bates in 1883, and they resided in Portland, Maine, for the rest of their lives with a marriage of forty-five years. Arthur had a successful career and served as president of the Union Mutual Life Insurance Company and was the brother of Katherine Lee Bates, a prominent writer and professor. The couple had three daughters-- Margaret Bates, Dorothy Whittemore Burgess, and Elizabeth Frances Keith; however, Margaret died before she reached her first year in life. Elizabeth was the oldest, being born in 1886 while Dorothy was born in 1890.

Nellie Bates had a prominent leadership role in women's suffrage organizations in Maine, having served in multiple positions throughout her lifetime. She served as president of the Portland Equal Franchise League, which was described by Ida Husted Harper as the "backbone of the State [suffrage] association." Later she became involved with the Maine League for Women Voters, being elected treasurer in October 1923. This position was a prominent one, as its election had been attended by "delegates from all sections of the state" for the league's annual convention. The league focused on suffrage more broadly than Maine as well, as they had a relationship with the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. From 1924 to 1926, Bates served as the league's president.

On June 2, 1927, Bates served as a speaker for the Popular Government League, which consisted of about fifty men and women of both political parties, where they had gathered together to give speeches on whether or not to retain the judicial judges in Maine.

Bates passed away on April 12, 1928, at the age of 71. She was buried in Portland, Maine, which is where she conducted the majority of her activist work. Bates had most definitely been an all-rounder woman interested in many different activities besides suffrage work, where for one, she had served as director of the Women's Literary Union, a group dedicated to sponsoring public programs and educational programs. More creatively, she was also secretary and a founding member of the Ceramic Club. Besides that artistic dimension, she had been a member of the Business and Professional Women's Club, a group in Portland that had formed in 1920, dedicated to promoting and providing aid for women in business. With the numerous organizations she was involved in, it is clear to see that Nellie Bates loved being an involved member in the community.


"About WLU." Woman's Literary Union. Accessed June 3, 2021.

Ancestry. Accessed June 3, 2021.

"ARTHUR L. BATES; Retired Life Insurance Official with Union Mutual 64 Years." The New York Times, July 24, 1938.

"In Defense of the Primary." The Bangor Daily News, June 3, 1927. Accessed June 3, 2021.

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK].

Kanes, Candace. "Mining the Evidence: The BPW in Portland." Maine History Online. Accessed June 3, 2021.

"Mrs. Huddilston Heads the Women's Voters League." The Bangor Daily News, October 20, 1923. Accessed June 3, 2021.

"Mrs. Nellie G. Bates Dead at Portland." The Boston Globe, April 13, 1928. Accessed June 3, 2021.

"Nellie Gertrude Bates." Family Tree & Family History at Accessed June 3, 2021.

"Nellie Gertrude Bean Bates (1857-1928)." Find a Grave. Accessed June 3, 2021.

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